Public and Private Performances of Self in Medieval Literature and Drama

At a time when life was viewed as a constant struggle between good and evil within the human soul, how was the inner self conceived? Furthermore, when public life was a type of performance in itself, how did people publicly enact their identities? And how did those private and public identities function in such a rigidly hierarchical society? With an emphasis on close critical readings, this module aims to explore medieval identities by looking at manifestations of self in literature and drama; it will examine and challenge distinctions between public and private, questioning the concept of subjectivity in this period, and consider moments of personal crisis. As well as looking at the role of performance in everyday life and organised drama, we will study the creation of narrative voices and personas in literary texts, and interrogate the interrelationship of text, ‘voice’ and performance. The module also sets aside seminar time to develop close reading skills and build familiarity with Middle English language.